Guilty of Murder
My breaths grew deeper and deeper with every step I took. I didn't see him but I heard the orphanage director’s muffled footsteps as well as the jingle of his keys as he scrambled out the orphanage after me. He wasn't going to catch me this time. As long as the other kids didn't chase after me, no one was catching me today. If they did …. I didn't even want to think about returning to that place. I dashed around the corner, merely missing the newspaper stand set up by the crowded deli shop. The streets were bustling with people going by their own business. It annoyed me that nobody seemed to notice me. Nobody cared but I was used to that. I had to be.
After my parents died, I lived with my older brother, Vince for a couple of months. That is until eleven years ago when I woke up in that third floor apartment room and realized that I really was by myself. That was the day I finally admitted to myself that I could never trust anyone. Growing up as an orphan, I saw more than I should’ve. I’d witnessed the most horrific things in the streets and had to get myself out of the worst troubles. But I couldn't complain, because I couldn't be broken easily. I’d become a seventeen year-old savage, dependent on myself. Today I’d somehow convinced Rick to let me outside to enjoy fresh air. Surprisingly, this time, the other kids didn't chase after me. Losing Rick wasn't hard. The hard part was finding Chase and Tracy. Searching the places we usually met I went to the train station and the mall entrance. I spotted the huge afro some feet away from the dollar store. Tracy was a tall guy, with a muscular build but his appearance did not suit his emotional nature. Lightly jogging towards the rather empty dollar store, I began to notice the police cars stationed by the street, the commotion within the store and the horrid look of the few bystanders. Tracy didn't see me and flinched merely at the sight of me. Normally, he would've dapped me up, but today he seemed distant, even remorseful. He was slowly backing up, still not acknowledging me. I was about to protest when I saw what was going on. Following his gaze through the glass a familiar figure came into view. He was surrounded by cops who were putting handcuffs on him. I was about to dismiss this person as another robber when I heard a pleading voice.
“Please, I didn't do anything.” Only one person sounded like that. My head turned and met Tracy’s eyes, suddenly angry.
” Why are you out here, while Chase is being arrested”. Without waiting for a response, I jumped the tape surrounding the entrance and stormed into the store.
After all this was cleared up, I was definitely going to sue these cops. They were practically breaking my arms just to fit them into the handcuffs. Plus, the handcuffs were rusty. That’s an extra thousand dollars right there.
“ Please, I didn't do anything,”, I barked at the officers, not even attempting to hide my agitation. These cops couldn't possibly think that I’d stabbed the cashier. I mean, how. They had to be joking. It was unknown to me why the cashier was dead behind the counter. He’d probably been dead before I entered the store. The reality of the situation didn't actually occur to me until the handcuffs tightened.
“Were you by yourself ?” the cop asked
“Yes, no one was with me .” That was a lie. There was no way I was going to tell him I had met up with Tracy.
“How did you enter? “
I motioned over to the entrance. “ The door. Where else would I enter from?” The officer pointed to the back. My head turned and for the first time I saw the entrance at the rear of the store. The second officer walked to the back door while the other two tightened their grip on me. “ There is no one there. I told you I’m by myself.” The officer looked around the back but didn't find anyone. “ What did I tell you. There is no-o.” I stopped mid sentence because I saw the officer at the back entrance stoop down behind a shelf. He picked something up. I couldn't help but let out a yelp when I saw the bloodied knife in his hand topple back to the ground where he’d taken it from. That’s when I saw Sage at the entrance, wide mouthed.
I don't usually befriend murderers, and despite what I saw in the dollar store, I still wasn’t convinced that Chase had killed that cashier. Still, I couldn't help but stare in awe when the cop picked up that red knife. The look of disbelief on Chase’s face confirmed to me that he hadn't done anything. “But what about the other guy, he could’ve done it,” Chase begged. “We’ve sent out a search for him.” The officers edged Chase towards the door and for the first time I noticed the distress in his eyes. It was at that instance that I decided that no matter what happened, I wouldn't let anything happen to Chase.
I’d seen the guy with the scarred neck leave. That’s when Chase had entered. Everything that had happened, even the spot on the cashier chest that the knife had slit through, I knew. It was minutes later that the cops arrived. I didn't approach them despite all I knew because I was ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I’d allowed this to happen. Revealing the truth scared me. What if the officers thought I was involved and arrested me? That was definitely not on Sage’s mind because he’d ignored the caution tape surrounding the entrance and would’ve definitely barged in had it not been for the knife that had toppled to the ground. I wish I was like him. I wish I was loyal and didn't do things secretly. Sooner or later the truth had to come out and that really scared me.
All I could think as the officers led me to their van was that I had just destroyed my life. Let me rephrase that. The murderer had just destroyed my life. When we went past Sage, who still had a look of shock on his face, I only managed a sidelong glance. “ Bro, I didn't do it.” You’ve gotta believe me, man.”
“ Chase, I do.”
We reached the van and the cops were in the process of shoving me into the back when Sage came sprinting.
“ Chase, what did he look like? ”
He had on a white t-shirt and had a jagged scar on the side of his neck.”
Sage turned to the cops as they continued trying to shove me into the back. “Officer wait, Chase didn't do it, you can't arrest him.” “ Really sport, then how do you explain the knife”?” Tell you what, there is going to be a court hearing today at 6 o’clock sharp. You can come plead your case there.”
“ Really sport, then how do you explain the knife.” The words still rung in my ears even after the cops had left with Chase. I began heading towards Tracy’s direction. He was freakishly sweating.
“ I can’t believe this.”
“ I’m not surprised.”
The ride to the police station was a combination of me pleading and yelling in the car. “ Get these things off. I’m innocent,” I wailed as I kicked the back of the drivers seat.
“We haven't claimed otherwise.” one of them said. The first officer, the one who had found the knife, informed me that the person I’d seen had been caught and that he would be at the court hearing. I really hoped that he’d admit the murder so that all this would be cleared. When we reached the station, the cops made me get out the car and escorted me into the red brick building.
Sage approached me as the cops pulled away. He looked at my wrist and I covered it with my sleeve.
“ Bro, what happened?”
“ I have no idea.” That was a lie. The opposite of that and more was the truth.
“ Anyways, we are are going to his hearing today.” If it was up to me I wouldn't have gone, but I owed that much to Chase, after what I’d done. Hopefully I wouldn't need to speak up at the hearing. I wondered how long I would be able to do this. And what if Chase ended up being convicted? Would I really be able to keep things secret. I wondered what sort of person that made me. “ Okay, anything to help fix this mess.”
When we reached the courthouse we were met by a giant security guard. He had a stern face and I couldn't help but notice how his hand hung over the gun strapped to his waist. I told the guard that we were here for the court hearing.
“ What’s your name?”
“ Sage. This is my brother,” I said as I pointed to Tracy.
“ Go straight and turn left under the exit sign”. We did as he said. The room was vast and empty save for a few amount of people. The clock read 5:58. Two more minutes. Tracy and I took seats in the middle row. In front of the room sat a chubby man. I presumed him to be the judge. His hair was receding at the top and gray on the sides. His glasses rested on his eagle like nose. At the center of the room a group of men in suits stood chatting loudly. The conversations only stopped when a scrawny, chestnut haired man walked into the room and waved at them. One of the men in suits said, “ Bring them in.” I watched as the scrawny man left. A minute later Chase and another guy entered. They were taken to the front of the room.
“ You may introduce yourselves, “ the judge said.
“ I’m Chase Mclean”.
The other guy stood and for the first time I noticed his features. His nose was broad, his cheekbones high and his chin angular. Something about this guy didn't sit well with me. The way he over blinked with his dark brown eyes, and the way his lips parted but didn’t speak looked all too familiar. “ My name is Vince. Vince Walker.” I almost fell out of my chair.
This was all useless. They weren't going to find the murderer, unless I spoke up. This wasn't the guy who had stabbed the cashier. I kept all the thoughts fighting for space in my torn brain masked away beneath an innocent face, hoping they’d never find a way out.
The judge began. “ To make it easy, I’m offering the suspects a chance to speak up about what really happened.” For a while, I thought this Vince dude wouldn't confess and that we’d both end up in jail for life, but then he stood up and my fears were alleviated. I couldn't help but smile when I realized that he would finally confess, that I wouldn't go to jail, that my life wasn't ruined. He began, “ Your honor, I speak truth and only truth when I tell you that I myself watched this murderer attack the cashier. I had an indignation to do something but I feared greatly for my life, so immediately fled the scene and I’m so very thankful to be alive.” It took me a while to realize he was talking about me.
A loud murmur went through the crowd. The judge banged his hammer, a signal for silence. “Mr. Mclean, do you have anything to say to this. “ All eyes turned to Chase. He stood there still and unmoving with an expressionless face. He stayed like that until the judge said, “ Well, that makes it easy. We have our suspect.” The judge motioned towards Chase with his hands and out of nowhere cops began starting for Chase.
I saw them all coming at me. And in that moment, I was alive but dead. I was standing, but sprawled cross the floor, looking but blind, hearing but deaf. The room began shaking, side to side. My breaths became shallow and it hurt to breath. I heard voices. The last one, sounded familiar, but it didn't matter because I wasn't there anymore.
As the guards closed in on Chase, I noticed the lifeless expression on his face. At that moment I realized all I had done. It was all my fault and now Chase was in big trouble for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He still hadn't answered and the cops were nearing him. My thoughts were cut short when the Sage stood up and yelled over the crowd. “ Your honor, wait.” The judge gestured for the guards to stop. The room silenced. All eyes were on Sage. “ Young man, what is your name?” “My name is Sage. Sage Walker and I have something to say. ” Standing in the middle of the room Vince whirled around. Tears began to streak down his cheeks when he saw Sage.
“ It was me, your honor. I stabbed the cashier.”
I knew this was all happening because of me. I also knew that if I was going to speak up, now was the time. I stood up alongside Sage. It was already quiet. Sage turned to me clearly surprised. “What are you doing?” I ignored him, then began. “ I watched the crime happen myself and I know who did it. It was him.” All eyes followed the direction of my hand as I pointed to Chase.
A shudder went through the crowd as the guards swarmed around Chase. I couldn't breathe. The air was being choked out of my lungs. Tracy was a traitor. That was the last thing I thought about before I…
Sage collapsed to the ground next to me. I looked down at him. His eyes were glazed over. I should’ve felt bad, but I didn't. I had to stop pretending being someone I wasn't because I wasn't the fearful boy everyone thought I was.
I was really confused. The cell was dark and smelled of fresh paint even though the walls were cracked all over. When I woke up, I was laying in the small bunk bed, completely disoriented. Then everything came rushing back to me. I was a murderer. I couldn't believe it. I had really murdered the cashier. I didn't remember but Tracy had said so. He never lied. He had also been at the dollar store when I’d arrived. So it was true. Tracy had been there. He really had seen me murder the cashier.
It would’ve been so much easier to come clean and tell everything I’d seen but I couldn't. I thought back to when Sage had looked at my wrist. Had he somehow come to the realization of what I was about to admit to myself.
Sitting in this jail cell, everything became clear. When Tracy had said he’d seen Chase murder the cashier in the court, I’d almost thought he was trying to save me, but then I realized the truth. He was saving himself. I thought back to when I’d first arrived at the dollar store. I’d seen the red sharpie on his wrist and the way he’d quickly covered it with his sleeve should’ve made me suspicious but it didn't because I trusted him. It was too red to not have been blood. I couldn't believe it but Tracy had stabbed the cashier. I guess I was wrong. I do befriend murderers.